Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Really Wanted To Write About This Story But It's Nigh on Perfect As It Is

MS. TIPPETT: You also really emphasize the Christian themes of death and resurrection. And I'd like you to talk about really what those words mean for you.

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yeah. I mean, I feel like the Christian life is a life of continual death and resurrection. Also, I think some sectors of Christianity think, well, you're saved and then you're good, right? And then you just lead a really nice life and you're a good person and you're redeemed and you sort of climbed this spiritual ladder so that you're close to God. And that's just not been my experience.

My experience is of that disruption, over and over again, of going along and tripping upon something that I think I know or that I think I'm certain about, and realizing I'm wrong. Or maybe fighting to think I'm right about something over and over and over again until I experience what I call the sort of divine heart transplant. You know, it's like God reaches in and, you know, the prophets speak of this. It's not a polite experience, you know?

MS. TIPPETT: Well, tell — give me an example. Can you think of …

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Oh, gosh. OK. So um, when my church was mostly young adults, and it was sort of, you know, hip, urban young adults. And then I preached at Red Rocks Easter Sunrise services — 10,000 people. And The Denver Post ran a front-page, full-page picture and story about me on preaching at Easter, and about my church and whatnot. And we only had about 40, 45 people every week at this point. And the next week, we doubled in size like overnight.

And we were excited because we were really struggling to grow, but what happened was it was like the wrong kind of people. I mean, it was the wrong kind of different for us, right? Like some churches might freak out if the drag queens show up, but these were like bankers wearing Dockers, right? And we were like …


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: It was not — it wasn't like — I freaked out. This actually isn't a joke. I freaked out. And I kind of went on this little rampage about, like wait a minute. They could show up to any mainline Protestant church in the city and see a room full of people that looked just like them, right? And like, why are they coming — it was almost like, oh, well, this just so neat! Oh, this church is neat! They're so creative! You know, and I just thought you're ruining our thing, man; you are like messing it up. And at the same time, we got evicted, this whole story. We moved …

MS. TIPPETT: Did they come with you?

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: No, no. So we moved and then that was the first service with all the new people, right? And it was like this stately, historic neighborhood instead of the like grungy hipster neighborhood we came from. And I turned to this woman who's like my deacon, and I was like, "We got to get the hell out of this neighborhood because it's attracting the wrong element."


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Like this is — and I would call my friends and I'd rant about it and what am I going to do, and I called one of my friends who has a similar type of church in St. Paul, Minnesota, called House of Mercy. And I called up Russell, and I was like, "Dude, have you ever had normal people take over your church?"

And so I go on this — I tell him the whole story expecting him to be like, man, that sucks, and instead he goes, because our community holds this value of welcoming the stranger, and he goes, "Yeah, you guys are really good at welcoming the stranger when its a young transgender kid, but sometimes the stranger looks like your mom and dad." I was like, you're supposed to be my friend! Click! You know, um, and so I had scheduled this meeting to talk about the demographic change in our community so that the people who are new …

MS. TIPPETT: So just to be clear. So this to you felt like a bit of a death of the dream of what the church had been about.

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yes, no, completely, because I thought, well, then the people who showed up will find out what the church is about and leave. And then what happened, thank God, is I had that phone call with Russell and had this like God reaching in and pulling out my heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, like something that was actually warm and beating again.

And we had the meeting and I told that story and the people who were new told us who they were and why they were there so that the people who've been there from the beginning could hear what the church is about. And then everyone went around in a circle and Asher said, "Look, as the young transgender kid who was welcomed into this community, I just want to go on the record as saying I'm glad there's people who look like my mom and dad here, because they love me in a way my mom and dad can't."


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yeah, you're clapping, but like that sucked for me, like, I was — I was sure I was right, I was going to fight the fight, I was going to do what needed to be done and then like my heart gets just cold and stony the longer I go on that path every time. So that to me, that's the Christian life. It's always death and resurrection.

Aaron Copland Violin Sonata

Issac Stern Violin
Aaron Copland Piano

I like Copland's chamber music a lot more than I do the orchestral pieces that always get played, some of them to death.  The Violin and Piano Sonatas, the terribly neglected Nonet (which is also on the album this performance was originally released on) the Sextet, are all works that could do with more performance.

For personal reasons I always associate this piece with this time of the year.

Update:  And I still think that of all the composers who were heavily influenced by Copland,  André Previn is the most convincing.

André Previn  Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy The Kid

Elizabeth Reiter, soprano
André Previn, piano

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Someone Asks What Those Songs Mean

I don't speak Cape Verdean Portuguese and I don't have my brother's copy of the the great Cesaria Evora's CD which had translations.  That was the disc I listened to them on while I was waiting for word that my niece was born.  I did find some of them translated into French online so here's my attempt to translate the first of them,  Tudo Tem Se Limite, Everything has a limit, which was especially appropriate for that memory.

Your father was not a stoker,
Nor a charcoal maker,
Not a sailor or a boatman,
A carpenter or a mason,
A baker or a fisherman.
Or, even less so, a day laborer.
You have never known hardship,
Poverty was always a story to you,
You never fought for freedom,
So tell me who you think you are
To judge the reality of our country.

Humble Christians keep silent
And justice for the people is always without voice.
From where you come from,
You insult and mock even God
But under heaven there's a limit to everything.
Your power is not infinite,
Here is Cape Verde.

I Should Stop Reading Salon and Alternet: Your Provocative Idea For Tuesday

In recent brawls with atheists it came to me that if the surveys are right, then atheists have seldom comprised more than a small fraction of the members of any society.  Even in places where they held or hold control -always by force- , they don't seem to be more than a fraction of the population.  Look at how religion sprang back in the former Soviet Union and its occupied countries as soon as the heavy hand of official atheism fell off.  And that was with decades of violent, relentless pressure to destroy religious belief, at times mass slaughter numbering into the tens if not hundreds of thousands and more, indoctrination in the schools and media and through social pressure, etc. 

Yet, given their minority status, in the past century, beginning with the rise of the Soviet Union almost a century ago, atheist governments have managed to rack up some of the greatest body counts of any identifiable group during any similar length of time in human history.  Per capita, it is quite possible that atheists have one of the greatest records if not the actual greatest record for killing, slaughter and oppression of any identifiable human grouping.  

Given that record someone with a scientific or analytical turn of mind might wonder if there was something about atheism that led to that record.  They might look at the words of notable atheists and see what they said about the cost-benefit of having people dead (no, I won't repost my entire archive of pieces on eugenics and related topics, just now)  and the advocacy of notable atheists for violence and mass killing, in the run up to the past century of atheist blood letting and and up till today. 

I mean, if you're going to look at religion that way, it's fair to do the same with atheism.

Update:  I'm told that An averagely intelligent 5th grader would have you pegged as an insufferably obtuse knowitall pompous putz in a nanosecond. 

Which might bother me if I intended to write for "an averagely intelligent 5th grader" instead of an intelligent adult audience.  I'll leave the 5th graders to the guy with the OC for me.  And here I'd always figured he was 12 instead of 10 1/2.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cesaria Evora - D' Nhirim Reforma

Petit Pays

Because Everyone Knows That Liberal Christians Enable Bad Christians. It must be true, I read it on Salon today

Heads I Win Tails You Lose, I Win When The Coin Lands On Its Side, When It Rolls Out of Sight And When I Turn It Over, Too

That is essentially the rule I find is asserted whenever arguing with an atheist on "the question of evil", the alleged inseparability of religion and war, racism, sexism, crime, etc. one of their asserted disproofs of the existence of God.

In the last two or three years the point I've made here a number of times has come to interest me more, that,

1. whereas with most religious folk, at least in the monotheistic religions that we are mandated to hate and despise,  it is a fact that a member of those religions would generally have to violate the most basic teachings of their religion to do serious evil, those religions provide at least that hurdle the evil doer has to to jump over.

2. Atheists don't have even that hurdle of metaphysical moral commandment to overcome in order to do the very things they 
-rightly- slam religious people for doing.

3. It is my experience that when that is pointed out, some atheist will say, "well, of course, atheism doesn't have moral obligations to not do those things, atheism doesn't have any kind of moral code."  As if that makes it superior to religions that DO CONTAIN MORAL CODES AGAINST DOING THE VERY THINGS THE ATHEIST COMPLAINS THAT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DO!  

Which is ridiculous because, just as religious people have to temporarily evacuate their professed beliefs to do evil forbidden by their religions,


5.  The go-to "question of evil" as asserted by atheists, while quite inadequate to address the "existence" of God,  is a better demonstration of the inadequacy of atheism due to atheism not providing the competence to even name something as being evil in order to make the argument. 

One of the few defenses atheists can make if you refuse to be distracted into not pressing the issue is to claim something along the line of "How could you imagine kindly, sweet, little old, professor (as it generally is) X could ever countenance anything evil?"   Well, the first point is that any system of morality that relies on the disinclination of a contented, well-fed academic atheist to not be moved to commit evil is hardly a major hurdle to those who want to do so, despite having been given a PhD and a professorship*.

I've been to university and grad school, academic life is often like nothing so much as a tank of piranhas.  And if you include, not only the actual commission of evil but, also, the advocacy of it, no, not even that but the RIGHTNESS of it, that hurdle barring academic evil was knocked flat centuries ago.

This was brought to mind by two things, one is my reading one of those wacky, stupid and insane papers by "ethicists", as quite often out of some Australian university, quite often with some kind of connection to the atheist barmpot, Peter Singer, who we are all supposed to hold is some kind of expert on this ethics stuff.   The paper in this case was entitled, After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? and perpetrated by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both, I believe from Melbourne University.  It argued that infanticide for a period (unspecified as to how long) should be allowed because neonates and even infants aren't "persons" because they don't match a definition that another barmpot, Michael Tooley, came up with in another paper of the ancient vintage of 1972.  Which, predictably, created a bit of a controversy.  When the critics of Giubilini and Minerva and the editor of Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu, got the predictable storm of protests, they were just shocked that people could criticize "ethicists" for merely following up on ideas that people like Peter Singer (identified in the comments as Savulescu's dissertation advisor) Michael Tooley and John Harris.   As this idea has festered among the most ironically named academic profession "Ethicists" for going on half a century, in the English speaking world, proves that the "ethics" fostered among academic atheists today is no better at self appraisal than it was when Ernst Haeckel and Alfred Ploetz were saying similar thing more than a hundred thirty years before.  And if you know the first thing about that, yes, they set such precedents in thought that led to the eugenics and T4 programs of murder that I wrote about a little while ago.   That Peter Singer, with his family history, could promote infanticide doesn't lead me away from thinking that atheism is tied, not only to moral depravity, but fractured thinking and a stupendous inability to learn the most exigent lessons of the most recent and even personally relevant history.

Somewhere in the discussion after the fire storm of protest started the authors claimed that they hadn't advocated that infanticide be made legal, though their article most certainly called for it to be allowed.  How you make that distinction while maintaining a pose of coherence is a curious thing to see, considering that you can already kill babies, only it's illegal if an all too seldom punished crime. I see the whole thing as evidence that the word "Ethicist" today generally means an atheist academic who spends their time thinking of threadbare utilitarian arguments for moral depravity so as to get their names in the news and them on shows like Fresh Air and in the online buzz feed.  I assume everyone here has more than a passing problem with subjecting human beings, if not life in general, to the slippery and often sleazy methods of utilitarianism.  Perhaps more of that in the future.

Later, while researching Michael Tooley online, I came across one of those debates about the existence of God between William Lane Craig and a celebrity atheist.  It was not one of the more interesting ones because Tooley is no Sean Carroll or even Larry Krauss.  In a rather astonishing turn of events, he tried to base his arguments on "the question of evil" which one would assume an academic advocate for murdering babies would not be found credible to make.  I don't believe Craig was gauche enough to point that out, I'm not sure I wouldn't have.


After an adulthood of pretending that it isn't the case, a decade of reading the unedited and edited thinking of atheists forces me to conclude that so much of the depravity that has issued from atheism, from even before Haeckel,  Thomas Huxley, Darwin's circle, Nietzsche's followers, and an enormous number of other names up to and including those named above is a direct result of their atheism, their materialism, the fact that they reject the idea of absolute moral truths and absolute moral obligations.   Infanticide was asserted to be a downright social good by Haeckel and Darwin, something which is an idea which is inescapable in the case of children deemed "unfit" from Natural Selection as they created the theory.

The pretense of academic life, what the alleged value of a university education and the public funding of universities is based in, that it matters in real life, either is true or it isn't.  That ideas presented within academia have the most basic requirement that they cohere also matters or the entire enterprise of academic life is a sheer and total fraud.   Academics can't be allowed to have it both ways, to make claims that something which are a clear moral depravity are good and, indeed, at times are morally required and then to pretend that they didn't intend what they actually presented as having the reliability supposedly gained by peer review and the rest of the sometimes silly and gaudy regalia of academic publication.  

And even more so, I can see no way to pretend that ideas such as that babies who have been born, who have an independent life,  removed from consideration of the rights of their mother to their own bodily autonomy, can be killed at will of the parents are not a direct result of the intellectual and ideological basis from which those who articulate those conclusions work.  

As I noted, we are supposed to despise those officially unfashionable monotheistic religions, because, it is alleged, they kill children, etc.  But the very same atheists who make that accusation against, mostly, Christians,  then turn around and either tolerate the assertion that acts such as infanticide are morally justifiable or assert that it is an actual good.  Atheists demand to have it both ways, in both ways, and that all of those ways be held to benefit atheists and their ideology.

*  I would wonder if, perhaps, in the same why that it is generally asserted that the saintly, pure scientists aren't the ones who produce weapons of mass destruction, environmental disasters, terrible legal and social results, it is those evil engineers who do it, that it will be held that it's those lesser academic beings, instructors, associate profs, etc. who bring academic atheism into dispute.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cesaria Evora - Tudo Tem Se Limite

This is what I was listening to as my dearest niece was being born a little over eighteen years ago.


Rotcha 'Scribida

These Laws Must Be Broken By Bishops: An Open Letter To Pope Francis And Other Church Leaders

I have been looking at this report from The National Coalition For The Homeless about the increasing number of cities which are making the distribution of food to the homeless illegal or imposing unworkable and unsustainable restrictions on that distribution. 

Under many of these laws it would have been illegal for Jesus to have fed people who had been following him and for other people to have given food to him and his closest followers who had left their homes and, so, were homeless.  

One thing that jumped out at me was the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, the one on the map of cities closest to where I live, also the home of the Archdioceses of New Hampshire.   In that case the effort to starve the homeless out of the city is to ban the distribution of food on public property, in the center of the city, where most of the homeless people are, allegedly allowing the distribution only in residential areas, where any such effort will certainly be resisted by area residents.  From that section of the report:

Bill Sullivan, President of Do You Know Him?  Ministries, states that moving to a residential area will only make matters worse.  He states,  "We can't be in a residential area.  We start setting up at 6 o'clock in the morning and we have anywhere between 200-300 people and that's not a quiet group

Certainly among the responsibilities of the bishop and other clergy in Manchester, New Hampshire and other cities where these laws are adopted is to break them, publicly,  to do what Jesus said to do in the gospel, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to do justice to the least among us.  

These laws are a test of the real belief in the gospel of Jesus by those who profess a belief in that gospel.  The failure to break these laws, to challenge them and to overturn them is a scandal that the Christian churches can't afford to sustain.  If any clergy, if any bishops are not willing to sustain the criticism they will get from following those most frequent and most strongly asserted obligations in scripture then they have willingly relinquished their claims to authority to teach them.  The words in their mouths will be made meaningless and impotent by their own failure to make them real in life.   Merely opposing their adoption in theory and then acquiescing to them in fact will not be enough. 

You should instruct bishops in their responsibility to, in fact, break these unjust laws, you should instruct Catholics that they are an open and serious violation of the most plainly stated teachings of Jesus, the prophets and the disciples. If these teachings are not to be taken that seriously, what else in scriptures can be?   I will be breaking them at my earliest opportunity.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

James Cone Preaching The Ordination of Chris Hedges

"....... You can still be God's Child"

Ordained to Write  The Reverend Chris Hedges

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bad Times

I'm taking the week off.  It's been a bad year and a half and I need to take care of some things. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

In Memory of K. A Child of God.

Every so often I think of Tim Anderson and wonder how he is.  He's an author of some very good short stories,  or, rather, accounts of his life as a gay truck driver which are not what most people would think on first reading that description.   He is a very sympathetic and close witness to lives that would generally not be mentioned.  For me, they are some of the more deeply religious things I've read.  Some are profoundly sad, documenting the least among us and people who could become the least through the most casual of circumstances.  I think this one.  Beautiful Loser may have been the first one I read,  I think I was looking for a quote from the Leonard Cohen novel of almost that name when I came across it, many years back.  It is about what happened the night a young, truck stop prostitute asked him if she could use his radio to find customers.  Tim Anderson's account is one of the sadder and more insightful things I've read like that.  For reasons I won't go into, it hits far closer to home today than I'd ever have expected then and which I can't bring myself to go into.

Re-reading it reminds me of this article that was in The Guardian last year, in which an atheist,  Chris Arnarde talked about how surprised he was to find religious faith in the drug addicts and prostitutes he was photographing after he left his job on Wall Street.

I eventually left my Wall Street job and started working with and photographing homeless addicts in the South Bronx. When I first walked into the Bronx I assumed I would find the same cynicism I had towards faith. If anyone seemed the perfect candidate for atheism it was the addicts who see daily how unfair, unjust, and evil the world can be.

None of them are. Rather they are some of the strongest believers I have met, steeped in a combination of Bible, superstition, and folklore.

The first addict I met was Takeesha. She was standing near the high wall of the Corpus Christi Monastery. We talked for close to an hour before I took her picture. When we finished, I asked her how she wanted to be described. She said without any pause, "As who I am. A prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God."

Takeesha was raped by a relative when she was 11. Her mother, herself a prostitute, put Takeesha out on the streets at 13, where she has been for the last 30 years,

It's sad when it's your mother, who you trust, and she was out there with me, but you know what kept me through all that? God. Whenever I got into the car, God got into the car with me.

Sonya and Eric, heroin addicts who are homeless, have a picture of the Last Supper that moves with them. It has hung in an abandoned building, it has hung in a sewage-filled basement, and now it leans against the pole in the small space under the interstate where they live.

I don't know if Tim Anderson is still writing but I hope he is.  He was writing a blog, and as bloggers do, he went to another one.  And it looks like if I'm going to find him again, I'll have to break my resolution and do Facebook.  I hope he's doing well, now retired from being a trucker.   His Christmas Village stories and others also show he can be rather funny as well.   We've had very different lives and come from different generations but he's shown me parts of life and life as a gay man I'd never see from a gay perspective, including the lives of straight people.  His story prepared me for some really bad news I got today and I thank him for that.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Informed People Can Disagree

I could claim to not have expected to get push back from that short Index of Prohibited Ideas which I published the other day but such a clearly disingenuous statement would impeach my credibility.   I knew it would cause the kind of swivet it did and in which venues those could be expected to appear.

Who I would call "my arch enemy" if he were competent enough or witty enough to generate the adjective and his BBF have apparently been snarking over me pointing out that bringing up "The Shakespeare Question" was forbidden even among the alleged and self-designated "Free Thinkers".  Among those results I expected.  Though I could point out that in my post I just said bringing up the question even without giving an opinion on it would get many knees to respond in a predictable way I can point out that doubting the old Bard of Avon legends was done by some rather eminent persons.  Here's a list from one website of Bard skeptics

In the annals of world literature, William Shakespeare is an icon of towering greatness. But who was he? The following are among the many outstanding writers, thinkers, actors, directors and statesmen of the past who have expressed doubt that Mr. “Shakspere” wrote the works of William Shakespeare:

Mark Twain, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orson Welles, Leslie Howard. Tyrone Guthrie
Charlie Chaplin. Sir John Gielgud, William James, Sigmund Freud
Clifton Fadiman, John Galsworthy, Mortimer J. Adler, Paul H. Nitze
Lord Palmerston, William Y. Elliott, Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, jr. 

Which, while a mixed bunch includes some people whose opinion on the topic is hardly negligible.   I'd go with the list of authors among those, along with such experts in drama as Leslie Howard, Tyrone Guthrie and Charlie Chaplin as being people who would have the most credible view of the question.   And those are just people in the past who questioned the orthodox view of it, there are hundreds more informed people who differ with it and have publicly stated so, many at least as if not more qualified than those who push the orthodox POV on the issue.

Mark Twain's short essay on the topic had a decisive influence on my thinking on the question.    Though it was the incredible paucity of evidence supporting W.S.'s authorship, starting with the two actors claiming ownership of the work through what would appear to be a rather dodgy amendment to a document that may well have been forged,  the failure to document education, book ownership or handwritten documents by the guy and, I'll add, how he failed to assure the education of his own daughters and his treatment of his wife - as opposed to the unusually woman positive nature of many of his female characters led me to the position I take on the issue.  I didn't even care about the issue until I read about it - though it's not exactly a major issue for me and I wouldn't, necessarily lose respect for someone who could come up with real reasons against my position, based on actual evidence instead of the huge body of myth and conjecture that,  uh,  "supports" the buyers of The Bard.

Reasonable people can differ on many questions, this being one of them and there are people who differ with me on this insignificant issue who I respect.  But whether or not the position a person has is based on more than the adoption of a conventional POV out of ignorance is certainly an important consideration.  I would suspect most people who hold any position on this issue, as in most others, take it as the common position of some some academic tribe, or social group or class clique.  Which strikes me as being no way to run a life of the mind, certainly not among people who represent themselves as having superior intelligence and a devotion to evidenced reason.

A New Low Water Mark For Supreme Court Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of the champions of free speech often hinges on them being enthusiastic about free speech when it's other people who have to pay a price.  In such instances as the ruling allowing the disruption of funerals by the Westborough cult, their alleged right to "speech" violates a right that any civilized person would recognize, the right to bury your dead unmolested by those unconnected to you.  And in the more recent case allowing harassment of those who work in and use womens health clinics, even a right to not be in danger of attack and murder is a price deemed acceptable for them to pay for the "free speech" of their potential attackers and killers.

Yet the free speech industry, the lawyers and legal organizations, the celebrities and academics, judges and, lest we leave them out, the corporate scribblers and babblers who couldn't have a more vested interest generally find those womens' rights a fitting price to pay on as much as a daily basis because, you know The First Amendment says "shall make no laws".   It's always so easy to assign someone else the cost of some other parties' "rights" in such cases, and something obviously hypocritical in those whose money is gained through selling words and images.

And that hypocrisy goes all the way to the top as this story from On The Media proves.   The Supreme Court not overturned a ban on protests on the plaza of the court, under a 1949 law, protecting itself from the speech of those who disagree with their decisions as alleged public servants, protecting them in a way that they refused to when it was a question of women seeking health care at clinics which have been the target of armed attack leading to deaths.   And they are doing it again, the Supreme Court, bringing a case to overturn a lower court ruling which would open the plaza to protests, a case which they not only bring but will hear. As Bob Garfield notes, the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court justices goes much farther than that and, in the anticipated refusal of the most interested court members to recurse themselves in hearing their own appeal of the case against a student holding a sign on their sacred plaza, that hypocrisy in their free speech absolutist rulings couldn't be more obvious.

One of the worst habits taught by the elite to their young is the sense of entitlement in which their interests and rights are granted an exemption from consistency and integrity and in the Supreme Court members, all of them trained in those institutions that formalize and inculcate that privilege as an official virtue, the inherent hypocrisy of that reaches both its most dangerous form and also the form which exposes the oligarchic charade emblematic of a late stage and decadent empire.

The extent to which Supreme Court justices were supposed to be governed by a sense of civic morality and a sense of honor was naively optimistic to start with. Almost from the beginning the members of the court displayed why that was the case.  Today that same naivety is inexcusable.   In the present day court's lack of honor and civic morality mixed with bald-faced favoring of the wealthy and privileged of their own class has become intolerable.  And they are even allowed to silence those who disapprove of what they do from reaching their sacred notice using the excuse that it might influence them.  Apparently seeing a sign which disagrees with them is more of a dangerous influence on their thinking that paling around with the corporate oligarchs whose cases come before their courts and the lawyers who bring those cases.   And, perhaps from their point of view, they are right.  In some improbable and rare instance they might see things from a vantage point which wouldn't favor their class and their intimate friends and associates.  They might lose a place in the hunting party next season.

The Congress is often accused of being the most corrupt of all the institutions of the federal government, jokes about that go back at least as far as Mark Twain designating them as our indigenous criminal class.  The present day Republican majority in the Congress would certainly earn them the title.   But I think it is actually those bodies which are more removed from the direct election by The People  who have been the source of far more corruption.   And there has not been a worse institution for that then The Supreme Court, the one which is entirely unelected and which has the privilege of exempting itself from the very laws it bends or creates for the rest of the country.  While I think the history of elected state courts proves that direct election of the highest court wouldn't likely improve things, making it illegal for them to exempt themselves from the laws and rules they force on the rest of us, with all of their included dangers and inconveniences, is necessary.  At the very least real laws governing mandatory recusal should be tried.  There are at least two or three sitting on the court who would have likely been forced out of office through their  most outrageous refusal to recuse themselves when there has been the most blatant and obvious conflict of interest.  Way too few of the justices have been removed for their actual and obvious malfeasance for anyone to have any confidence in the legitimacy of the body as it is now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Wish I Were Stephen Drury

In the days since I first listened to that Youtube of the astonishingly good pianist and all-round musician, Stephen Drury,  playing  Ives Second Sonata posted here the other day, I've been exploring more Youtubes on his Callithumpian Consort channel, all of it great very little of it music by composers I was familiar with or had heard of.   One of the biggest and most wonderful surprises were the pieces by Rand Steiger conducted by Stephen Drury (he's a really fine AND CLEAR conductor).   One of those is especially moving and troubling while being incredibly beautiful,  A Meancing Plume for a small chamber orchestra and electronics.  I would advise not listening with earphones because the resonance of the piece is rather incredible even on a compressed sound file.  Reading more about Rand Steiger, whose music I'd never heard before, I found these liner notes for a disc with that piece and the other Steiger piece Stephen Drury conducted, Resonateur.   The menacing plume is that which spewed forth from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that BP and lax regulation of the oil industry produced, endangering if not destroying an enormous and important ecosystem.  By the time the electronics take over for a long and chilling wail, relieved after what seems like like hours by the strings, the piece was one of the most compelling ones composed in a long time.

I will be posting other recordings from that channel in the coming week. some old music by composers I'd heard of but wasn't really familiar with, some by composers I'd never heard of before.

It used to be something I'd say that if I could choose someone else to be I might like to be Gunther Schuller, the distinguished composer, conductor, player, educator, scholar, authority on many topics in both modern classical music and jazz.   He was in the generation before me.  If I had to do it today, I sure wish I could be as good a musician as Stephen Drury or, at least, be good enough to be in his group. I haven't been this excited about music in a long time and I tend to get kind of excited about music.

Illiteracy In "The Reality Community"

Ah, you know, if you want to refute my point about what gets the mid-brow college grad into an angry swivet it's probably not your best strategy to get into an angry swivet because I mentioned those things.  And, really, proving you have reading issues (or perhaps it's just truth issues)  as you mischaracterize what was said is not particularly impressive either.

And, you know, my point wasn't that Melville should have put more women in his over-long and too lightly edited novel,


Second Amendment Attacks On Free Speech Are An Ultimate Product of The Free Speech and Media Deregulation Industry

Ann Coulter is famous because she's a smart person without morals who will say anything to make money from those who market racism, sexism, hatred of LGBT folk, who trade in the promotion of paranoia, fear and ignorance for power and profit.  If she were good her moderate intelligence wouldn't have made her rich and famous, a fixture on cabloid TV and other venues of unregulated hate, ignorance and parnoia.   The only thing that is really interesting about her is as a specimen of what the foulest end of free speech absolutism and media deregulation produces, she is the hazardous waste product of those who market those ideas over the common good and The Peoples' right to the truth.   But, vile as she is,  she is just an insignificant side show of the larger, right-wing use of "The First Amendment", ultimately hardly the most dangerous

The seeds that the free speech industry sowed, nurtured by the ACLU and, upon seeing the opportunity it presented to demagogues and oligarchic crooks, Republican Supreme Court justices are coming to maturity, all round us.  And, irony is one of them.  In the recent case of feminists being threatened into silence, the Second Amendment absolutism, sold though First Amendment absolutism, now has the power to silence people, threatening to use what a million cabloid and hate talk radio voices promoted to kill them if they don't shut up. 

The situation in which open carry laws are insanely passed and permitted to stand by right-wing judges is a direct result of media deregulation and a permission for industries, such as the gun industry, to promote their products through saturating the public conversation with lies, paranoia and a false elevation of one right over all others.  Well, as we are finding with that "right" when you make one supreme, ignoring that they exist in human society in tension with other rights of equal if not greater importance, that is a problem.  That it was the power of the pen which led to the power of the semi-automatic proves that the simple, attractive and even elegant formulations of assertions of "The First Amendment" have real life consequences in which the power of the gun, ultimately, wins out. 

If you want to assign ultimate blame for the dangerous mess we're in, you can do worse than looking at the "free speech - free press" advocates of the past half-century, the corners they cut and the inconvenient truths they suppressed. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Post: Some Forbidden Thoughts Which Will Reliably Send An English Speaking "Free Thought" Advocate Into An Angry Swivet

- Advocating spelling reform (one of the things that got me among the most angry responses in my brief life as a public writer)

- Coming out as an Esperanto speaker  (Especially sends English speaking monoglots who couldn't reliably order coffee or take directions in another language into a rage.)

- Being religious, of course

- Rejecting the idea that Moby Dick is The Great American Novel (I'm going to be reading Lila, the third of Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" novels,  next week and will review it.  I would say that the first two in the series are far superior to Melville's book.  To start with, unlike that more commonly cited "GAN", it actually has women in it instead of excluding half of The American People.)  To a lesser extent (another book also rather lacking in female characters) Huckleberry Finn.  

-  Doubting the demonstrably illiterate Bard of Avon wrote the plays and poems that constitute the greatest body of work in the English language.

- Taking the self-imposed limits of what science is for, what it can and what it can't do seriously.

- Criticizing modernism, including pointing out some of the horrifically bad things so many icons of modernism have said and done and not pretending that they didn't mean it.

Among the things that going online and reading the unedited thoughts of thousands of "free thinking", educated, moderny types for the past dozen or so years shows me is that many of their most basic ideas about the good and acceptable are no more than mere conventions they learned as a sort of requirement of a sort of club membership.  Not to be questioned and not to be looked at too carefully

Robert Reich Joins The War On The Ivies

If the polls are right, my state may be saddled four more years with what is objectively the worst governor of Maine in living memory, taking that distinction from the formerly worst governor of my state, Jock Mckernan, husband of Olympia Snowe and present president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.   The reason the truly awful Paul LePage was elected, to start with, is the reason he may well be relected with a minority vote,  the independent campaign of Eliot Cutler, a man who has never held elected office but who is a multi-millionaire.   Since this is a continuation of my war against the Ivies, I bring him up to note that his educational CV is Harvard University, Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center.

I notice that three days after I called for a land-grant grad revolt against the ivy leaguers last week,  one of their own, Robert Reich sort of declared war on the institutions, as well.  In a really eye-opening blog post he started:

Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.

You can stop imagining. That’s the American system right now.

Government subsidies to elite private universities take the form of tax deductions for people who make charitable contributions to them. In economic terms a tax deduction is the same as government spending. It has to be made up by other taxpayers.

These tax subsidies are on the rise because in recent years a relatively few very rich people have had far more money than they can possibly spend or even give away to their children. So they’re donating it to causes they believe in, such as the elite private universities that educated them or that they want their children to attend.

Private university endowments are now around $550 billion, centered in a handful of prestigious institutions. Harvard’s endowment is over $32 billion, followed by Yale at $20.8 billion, Stanford at $18.6 billion, and Princeton at $18.2 billion.

Each of these endowments increased last year by more than $1 billion, and these universities are actively seeking additional support. Last year Harvard launched a capital campaign for another $6.5 billion.

Because of the charitable tax deduction, the amount of government subsidy to these institutions in the form of tax deductions is about one out of every three dollars contributed.

I wish I had the time to go through various proposals for laws dealing with the establishment and enrichment of these endowments and study those which originated in either the graduates of the Ivies and their equivalent in private universities or from their faculty, in other words, the institutions bending the law in their favor and in the favor of the class they serve.  And they do serve the elite with a handful of plebs thrown in for show and, I'm sure, a means of padding their typical legacy student body with the cream of the lower classes.   Reich goes into quite a bit of detail on that as well, as you can read in his article.

What this means for most of the people who don't go to the ivies and their equivalent is that government policies, clearly set up to favor those elite institutions, amounts to an attack on the public universities and colleges which most of us and our children and loved ones could possibly attend.  And through that attack on the primary vehicle of maintaining and furthering social advancement of working class and poor people, the elite make war on us.  The primary means the elite uses to attack the public universities even as they plunder the public treasury is tax law.

Divide by the relatively small number of students attending these institutions, and the amount of subsidy per student is huge.

The annual government subsidy to Princeton University, for example, is about $54,000 per student, according to an estimate by economist Richard Vedder. Other elite privates aren’t far behind. 

Public universities, by contrast, have little or no endowment income. They get almost all their funding from state governments. But these subsidies have been shrinking.

State and local financing for public higher education came to about $76 billion last year, nearly 10 percent less than a decade before.

Since more students attend public universities now than ten years ago, that decline represents a 30 percent drop per student.  

That means the average annual government subsidy per student at a public university comes to less than $4,000, about one-tenth the per student government subsidy at the elite privates. 

This is an entirely outrageous situation that has certainly had a corrupting effect on our country, exacerbated the rampant, third-world style inequality which has increased in the past half a century since that public school graduate, Lyndon Johnson, launched his abortive War on Poverty.  In passing I will note, yet again, that war was doomed to failure, as no less a figure than The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. pointed out, through the massive spending on the U.S. war in Vietnam which was largely the product of advocacy by men educated in the very elite universities under discussion.  

The Ivy league class has had an unjustifiably large influence on public policy in The United States from before the beginning of the country,  the all too brief period after the G. I. Bill of Rights, perhaps, being a short and partial lessening of that effect of allowing them to privilege themselves and the institutions that service and perpetuate them in power.  They have, mostly, done a terrible job. What they learn in those universities is a sense of entitlement among the rich and means of bending both the ideas promulgated by education and in the media to their advantage, but, worst of all, corrupting the law, making our government one of the rich, for the rich and certainly by the rich.   The role those institutions, enormously subsidized by the working class, the middle class and, yes, even the poor, has been a major corrupting influence in American life. 

Franklin Roosevelt, my nominee, with  Abraham Lincoln as the greatest presidents we have had was a product of the same elite and its universities but one who was proud to claim the title of "class traitor" for his advocacy of economic justice and equality through strengthening public institutions.  Robert Reich would seem to be following a similar path of being a champion of  The People over the Patrician class.   I certainly hope that more will join it, from the ivy class, if they will, but primarily from the far more of us who were educated in the public universities which are under attack just as the public schools are.  I truly believe that one of our own could have prevented this and was on his way to doing so when he was stopped.   Had he rejected the Harvard boys and not gotten mired in Vietnam, I have no doubt but that Lyndon Johnson would have been the hands-down winner of the title he missed out on by listening to the Best and the Brightest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One of The Best Quotes I've Ever Read On A Blog

One of the best of the early bloggers who wrote with such subtle wit and grace was also one of the early ones to pack it in, whoever it was who wrote  Sully Watch blog. I was thinking of this quote by him, one of the most perfect and succinct formulations of a political ideology that I've read, thinking of including it in a post I'm working on. I finally went and looked it up, taking the, for the most part, pleasure of reading some old posts at his/her blog and remembering those innocent early days, as many as eleven years ago when some of us believed the internet was going to change things for the better.

[Andrew] Sullivan's attitude is emblematic of our definition of a libertarian: One who opposes the infringement of liberties by the government on the grounds that the private sector can do it more efficiently.